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Letters: Graffiti in Egypt is nothing new

June 01, 2013

Re "Giving a bad name to Chinese tourists," May 29

Just like the Chinese boy who scratched his name on an ancient Egyptian temple wall, people have been leaving graffiti on Egyptian monuments for quite some time now.

In the early 6th century BC, some Greek and Carian mercenaries traveling up the Nile River in the service of the Pharaoh Psammetichus II left a long "Kilroy Was Here" memo scratched on one of the legs of the statue of Ramses II at his Abu Simbel funerary monument. Several Greeks and Romans of later times left graffiti on one of the Luxor statues of the Pharaoh Amenophis III. These constitute only a few of the most famous instances of such "defacements."

These ancient defacings of still more ancient Egyptian monuments now constitute some of our most valuable archaeological treasures.

Maybe, then — without giving the Chinese tourist a pass — perhaps we should give him a moment's respite; in another 2,000 or 3,000 years, he may be more famous than infamous.

Stephen L. Glass


The writer is a professor emeritus of classics and classical archaeology at Pitzer College.

It's a small consolation that we Angelenos are not alone in suffering the eyesore of graffiti. We should be thankful that laws here in California hold taggers (or their parents) financially responsible for their acts. If only the Egyptian government could make this Chinese kid's parents fork over enough to hire an art restorer to fix the damage he's done.

I know it's a pipe dream, but perhaps Egypt should charge a special tourist tax so its government can hire more guards to patrol historic sites to deter those who may have itchy fingers.

President Mohamed Morsi, you're a busy man, but how about looking into this?

Philip Tom



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